Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals: Decoding the Sacred Symbolism of Christianity's Holy Buildings


Review: 4 Stars

Wow. These photos alone, just, wow.

I had originally received this as a ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, but did not feel like I could originally review it at the time because the file was just so screwed up. I felt like I needed a hard copy because the ARC did not justice to the beautiful photographs. There were huge formatting issues, pictures were literally spliced in half and you might not see one half at all, or find it so many pages later. The text was all out of order - seriously screwed up. Then around 31%, the cover, title page, and copy write appear with that table of contents and intro. It was definitely weird, because I have never encountered a file like this from NetGalley before.

I sent a note through NetGalley to the publisher stating why I did not post a review but did not expect to hear back, as for various reasons in the past I have sent similar notes and never received a reply. I was pleasantly surprised then, not too long later, to get an email from Gemma at Watkins Publishing directly, asking if I would like a PDF copy from them to read and review. I accepted and am so glad I did. The book truly is amazing. Even if there were no text at all, and it was simply photographs of the churches and cathedrals, it would be worth it. It is absolutely stunning.

I am completely fascinated by religious buildings and imagery. I love cathedrals especially, and two of my favorites are St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh (which I did not get to go inside of) and St Colman in Cobh, Ireland (which I was able to go inside of, and never wanted to leave). St Patrick's in Dublin is also beautiful, though again we did not get to go in. I think part of my fascination is because I am kind of obsessed with Catholicism, though I am Lutheran. Maybe obsessed is not quite the right word - more like enthralled? - but I watch in eager anticipation every time the Papal Conclave is deciding who the next pope will be. And I dig Pope Francis. A lot. Like, he is a total badass.

The architecture alone is amazing but the author goes into such detail about so many aspects of the buildings, I honestly do not really even know where to start. Within the specific buildings showcased, we see beautiful ceilings, mosaics, windows, and so on. The section alone on stained-glass windows was especially of interest and the Good Samaritan Window at Chartres Cathedral in France. In just two pages it really breaks down each section of the window and I found myself thinking back to the variety of stained glass windows I have seen at numerous churches and what scenery or message I might have missed because I was too busy looking at the pretty colors to see the big picture.

I believe this book would be of interest to many - those interested in history, art, architecture and/or religion. It is completely captivating and I am so glad I was able to have a second chance to take a look at this one.

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